By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
REP. Farouk Lawan’s towering achievements since the return of democratic rule can only be measured by his enduring presence in the nation’s political power circles since 1999. Given his diminutive physical frame, his staying power in the House of Representatives for four straight terms could only be traced to his mental capacities. So, what Lawan lacks in terms of physical size he has more than been compensated with in his intellectual capacities.
It is no surprise that at difficult times he was usually a rallying point in times of power conflict in the House. When in 2002, Speaker Ghali Na‘Abba and his troops in the House decided to battle President Olusegun Obasanjo ahead of the 2003 general elections, it was an easy decision for them to pick Lawan as the face of the battle.
Lawan who was until then Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Inter-Parliamentary Affairs was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Information making him the House spokesman. A former lecturer given to oratory, Lawan became a spoiler to the image of the then President.
When that year the House of Representatives compiled the impeachable offences of President Obasanjo, Lawan as the House spokesman was all about showcasing to the nation why President Obasanjo should be shown the way out. When in response to the Supreme Court judgment that annulled the then revenue allocation formula Obasanjo applied an executive order for the purpose of sharing the federation account, Rep. Lawan summoned House reporters to add one more offence to the then already overflowing constitutional breaches of Mr. President.
The sight of the pint-sized Lawan engaging a former General in battle must have excited many. But then even among many associates and onlookers, Rep. Lawan’s trustworthiness was a little problem.
Many wondered why after the dirt he poured on President Obasanjo that the wily grandees in the PDP still found a spot for him to return to the House when almost all others on the side of Na‘Abba were shown the way out in the 2003 election. Where folks like Speaker Na‘Abba were allowed to pick the PDP ticket, the PDP inevitably worked against their return to the House in the main election. Remarkably, in the 2003 leadership contest Obasanjo preferred a submissive Aminu Masari to Lawan.
Indeed, when the former President visited the National Assembly later in 2003 to present his budget proposals for 2004 and strictly warned the legislators not to adopt the manners of Na‘Abba and his associates, Lawan did not really say much. They were now buddies.
Anti third term camp
Lawan could accommodate Obasanjo so long as he still had political dreams. The office of speaker was one such dream that he had had since 1999 when he battled Salisu Buhari and others for that office. Lawan, however, broke his détente with Obasanjo during the third term fiasco as he rallied to the Anti-Third Term camp. But then the leaders of the Anti-Third Term group for one reason or the other did not gel with him. So, he was not brought into the leadership of the group.
With the re-zoning of the office of the Speaker to the Southwest in 2007, Lawan turned into a kingmaker and was faithful to Obasanjo’s interest in the enthronement of Madam Patricia Etteh as speaker. Whatever happened between Lawan and Madam Speaker remains a matter of conjecture.
There are tales of broken promises one of which was that Etteh failed to deliver the Chair of the House Committee on Appropriation to Lawan. Willy-nilly, Lawan and other foes of Madam Speaker spotted a proposal of about N50 million to renovate the Speaker’s residence and then the Integrity Group was born with Lawan as Leader.
The Integrity Group hounded Etteh out of office. But then when the leadership that succeeded did the renovation at multiple the amount proposed by Etteh, the group and Lawan did not see any foible.
Besides his politicking in the House, Lawan is a consummate legislator. As Chairman of the House Committee on Education, he alongside his Senate counterparts, especially Senator Joy Emodi, was instrumental to the restoration of sanity in the nation’s educational system.
After the inauguration of the present House and the Speakership passed over him, Lawan settled down to
routine legislative duties, perhaps preparing resources and rhetoric that would set him on his next political endeavour: The governorship of Kano State.
Whether his political enemies in Kano set him up or he was just being naïve is an issue that would be much discussed in years to come.
But what is clear is that in its bid to project itself as a caring branch of government, the Tambuwal House sought out its finest for the Ad-Hoc Committee on Subsidy Management. So, it was to Lawan the House leadership fixed its eyes on to head the panel.
But the story of Rep. Lawan receiving marked dollar notes in form of bribe is a fragmentation of the character and conscience of a man Nigerians have these years enrobed as Mr. Integrity. Certainly not the sharp and skillful legislator the nation had been accustomed to. It remains a dream!